When Shane the Labrador cross was admitted to a rehoming shelter in 2020 he was so anxious he would hide and tuck himself away in the corner of his kennel.
He was so anxious he was scared to move and had to be carried to his kennel because he wouldn’t walk on a lead. The anxious pup became one of Darlington Dogs Trust’s long-term residents.
And during his 16 months at the shelter, many other dogs found their forever homes. But now Shane has finally gained his confidence and is enjoying life in a new home thanks to the dedication of shelter staff member Michelle Graham.
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The canine carer refused to give up on Shane and following months of caring him she waved him off to his forever home with a local family in January.
Michelle said: “Shane was the most nervous dog I have ever worked with. It took hours of sitting with him to build his trust. The moment he knew he could trust me was the most heart-warming moment and was a true privilege. Waving him goodbye as he went to his forever home was very special and remains my biggest motivation.”
After Shane was admitted to the County Durham shelter Michelle tried slowly to build a bond by sitting with him every day. He was fed using licky and snuffle mats, rubber mats where food such as soft cheese can be spread or treats hidden.
These encouraged him to lick, sniff out and find food, as did multiple feedi.ng bowls, which all helped with enrichment. Once he was comfortable with Michelle’s presence, she then introduced Shane to a lead.
Hours were spent sitting with Shane getting him accused to just being around a lead before he was even clipped on as they sat together And it took months before Shane was walked on a lead and then slowly introduced to other dogs.
He developed complete trust in Michelle, eventually going on days out and spending time at her home. He even became best pals with Michelle’s dog. Michelle, who has worked at Dogs Trust for four years, is renowned for building the confidence of anxious dogs and finding different positive training techniques to help gain their trust.
She thinks nothing of spending lunch breaks with a dog in their kennel, taking them on trips or having a doggie friend for a sleepover. And now she has been praised for her incredible work and commitment to helping any dog find their forever home.
Sharon Boult, assistant manager operations at Darlington Rehoming Center who manages Michelle said: “Finding loving homes for all our dogs is a huge team effort from receptionists, adoption advisors, trainers and of course, our dedicated army of canine carers, including Michelle, who dedicate their lives to ensure all of the dogs get the best possible care whilst they are with us.
“It’s important to thank the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, whose support helps to fund some of our canine carers, as they are such an important part of our wonderful team here at Darlington.”
Michelle added: “Dogs have always played a huge part in my life, but I thought you had to have a degree to work in animal welfare. When I was made redundant, I began volunteering with Dogs Trust to gain experience. I then saw the canine carer job and applied.
“I’ve become known for loving the ‘nervous nellies’ as I’ve come to call them. I love working closely with the dogs that need one on one time to build trust and help increase their confidence, so they can be rehomed.
“I enjoy being part of their journey and witnessing the positive changes in their behavior and nature.”